It’s a familiar problem: You’re out and about and need to make a last-minute decision on where to eat. Even in a familiar city, there are dozens of restaurants in the area. How do you avoid a disappointing meal? This is where The Advertiser’s delicious100 steps in.

With just a few thumb taps, users can search by cuisine, price, and “what’s near you now” to discover the restaurant that best suits them at the moment.

The delicious100 ranking of South Australia’s best restaurants is exclusively available via digital subscription.
The delicious100 ranking of South Australia’s best restaurants is exclusively available via digital subscription.

While delicious100 is our successful digital answer to local dining dilemmas, it also begs a bigger question: Will people pay for this content? Our answer is a big, resounding YES.

Food content has always been a significant subscription driver for South Australia’s The Advertiser. People care about what they eat and where they eat it. For many years, we had produced an annual food guide primarily in book format.

In 2018, we decided to transform this content into an indispensable resource that worked across all digital platforms: delicious100, a ranking of the state’s top restaurants from one to 100, along with robust searchability, mapping, and other functions.

The user is always just a click and a step away from a great dining choice with the “what’s near you now” search option.
The user is always just a click and a step away from a great dining choice with the “what’s near you now” search option.

We established a project team to look at dining guides around the world, assessed what worked and what didn’t, and made decisions on the design, features, and commercial model that best suited the South Australian public.

We decided to take a leap in making the content digital-only in a bid to increase premium subscriptions for The Advertiser’s Web site — and it worked.

Created in The Advertiser’s newsroom using entirely our own resources — from the reviews themselves to the artwork and digital production — the guide includes deep-dive filters, allowing users to sort eateries by cuisine, price, region, vibe, and dietary requirements.

Acknowledging that users are increasingly accessing our content via mobile devices, we also adopted a mobile first mentality, including a special map view that allows readers to filter top restaurants “near me now.” Diners can also save a bucket list of favourite venues to tick off over time.

Search filters make it easy to find the right restaurant by cuisine, price, vibe, or dietary requirements.
Search filters make it easy to find the right restaurant by cuisine, price, vibe, or dietary requirements.

To promote the content, our guide piggybacked on the strength of the national delicious100 brand to engage more readers than ever before. We used Web site and in-newspaper pointers, as well as our many social channels, to draw in new and existing readers.

The Advertiser Food Awards, a prestigious recognition of industry achievement culminating in an awards night, was also timed to flow seamlessly into the launch of the digital-only guide.

 When creating the delicious100, we wanted to ensure it had a long shelf life. So from the very beginning, we worked out a plan to re-skin the content throughout the year — best outdoor restaurants in summer, romantic restaurants for Valentine’s Day, etc. This has ensured that we can continue to push subscriptions throughout the year, not just at launch.

To this day, the only way to find out the ranking of the restaurants is through the digital product. While we wrote many print newspaper promotional stories to support our delicious100 list, we have never revealed the No. 1 restaurant in print. Our newsroom understands our future lies in digital subscriptions and we are truly a digital-first (and in this case digital-only) operation.

The delicious100 features original content produced by The Advertiser, including restaurant reviews and photography.
The delicious100 features original content produced by The Advertiser, including restaurant reviews and photography.

The success of The Advertiser’s delicious100 food guide proves that people will pay for content that is useful to them, especially when it is presented in a clean, easy-to-use format.

It’s also a prime example of self-funded journalism. With a budget of AUS$15,000 to fund the guide’s food reviews, the project has generated more AUS$20,000 in revenue through subscriptions since it was first launched.

The content has not only been popular with existing subscribers, generating 34,000 pageviews within its first three days, but also proved to be a successful subscription retention tool, with 91% of new subscribers still engaged with our brand months later.

And now it’s time to start thinking about how to make this content even better for next year, especially as we roll out delicious100 to the rest of the country in 2019.